All posts by Shauntrice Martin

Shauntrice Martin

About Shauntrice Martin

Shauntrice Martin is a mother, financial advisor, and activist living in Louisville, KY. She is the founder of #FeedTheWest and a LEE Initiative Board member. Shauntrice also serves as a co-chair of the Coalition of Black Excellence Impact Nonprofit Team and a 2019 Forty Under 40 Honoree.

05Aug/20

A Letter To End The Food Apartheid

We are tired of struggling and we refuse to stand down. Kroger and other multi-billion dollar corporations post #BlackLivesMatter, but don’t even have the decency to treat Black customers like human beings. I will not bow down and accept their crumbs. This is a movement. I am proud to share our most recent call for food justice. Much love to all the Black folks in Louisville who fought these same battles. I look forward to speaking with our elders about past Black supermarkets.

In the meantime, join us. Email/text/call/tweet Kroger and demand that Black folks be given reparations for the historic disenfranchisement of our community. If CEO, Rodney McMullen, can post about #BlackLivesMatter, then he should be held to that standard. Read our letter below and help us hold these executives accountable for the harm they continue to do in Black communities.

—–

Peace,

My name is Shauntrice. I am the director of #FeedTheWest. Over the last 2 months, we have served more than 14,000 West End residents who currently live in a food desert. I am also the owner of the Black Market KY, a West End home owner, and author of the Bok Choy Project.
Since you responded to our social media post today (and not the calls or emails made to Kroger directly over the last few weeks) we’d like to speak candidly with you about about food justice and racism for a moment. Kroger must do much better. The mobile market is not sufficient. The partnership with Dare To Care is not sufficient. Here are some highlights from the #BokChoyProject:

From 2011-2015, there were 335 infant deaths in Louisville Metro, out of 49,577 total births. Far and away, preterm births, low birth weights and infant mortality disproportionately affect Black babies. This is important because infant outcomes can impact health throughout the rest of one’s life. While infant mortality has slowly been falling, the death rate for Black babies from 2011- 2015 was 1.95 times higher than for Louisville Metro; 2.31 times higher than for White babies. (Louisville Metro 2017 Health Equity Report).

Black residents in Louisville are much more likely than white residents to have diabetes and heart disease. Black children are more likely to suffer from health issues, which lead to truancy and incarceration, but the Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), reported fiscal 2019 sales of $122.3 Billion. We invite Kroger to join us during our Press Push tomorrow (Wednesday, 5 August 2020) to respond to our Antiracism and Equity Commission‘s recommendations outlined below:

  1. Kroger should publicly admit to discriminatory food apartheid practices in the West End
  2. We ask that Kroger gift $5 million in unrestricted funds to #FeedTheWest
  3. Since many Kroger workers in the West End are facing eviction, we support an increase of all non-management workers’ wages to a living wage by deducting the difference from executive level Kroger representatives including the CEO.
  4. Increase Black farmer support by sourcing at least 30% more of your produce from the following Black farmers: Kentucky Greens and Cleav Family Farm.

Please respond by 11:00 am tomorrow (Wednesday 5 August 2020). We look forward to hearing from you.
For transparency and accountability, I have CCd a number of community members.


All the best,
Shauntrice L. Martin

#FeedTheWest Director

Change Today, Change Tomorrow

19Jun/20

Why I Miss My Mother on Father’s Day

It doesn’t hurt as much to not have a father when your mother gives you double the love.

Spike Lee’s film Da 5 Bloods recently debuted on Netflix. Whether Spike Lee is cancelled or not, his characters speak to my existence in ways that I would be hard pressed to express without his artistry. Da 5 Bloods juxtaposes two absentee fathers–one who was physically present, but emotionally abusive and another who didn’t know he had a child. I cried watching their relationships unfold and without spoiling the film I have to say that it influenced me to dig deeper into my feelings about my own father.

All the repressed depression and feelings of worthlessness flooded every part of my soul when my mother died. I remember sitting in her room upstairs with my sister while we cleaned and packed her things before the funeral. I found a stack of love letters between my parents. There were trinkets, and photos, and books, and bottles, but the letters stood out to me. The words reflected an innocent and promising passion that I had no recollection of. 

My parents were married at one point and there are photos of us together, but my father was–and is possibly still–a dope fiend. The term is harsh, but I don’t say it with malice. I actually find comfort in the possibility that he was not in my life due to addiction or mental instability. That doesn’t cut as deep as the idea that he just didn’t want to be my father.

Over the years he blamed me for our lack of a relationship. My mother always encouraged me to reach out, but I would usually refuse. Who wants to chase someone who doesn’t want to be caught? I try to find closure and I have even tried reaching out to him, but we always hang up on bad terms because he insists on blaming my mother for his mistakes. I am a huge advocate for Black women’s self care, so why do I keep reaching out to someone who hurts me?

Periodically when I hear my friends talk about how corny their dads are or I watch a movie with a tumultuous father/child relationship, I think back to being in my mother’s room. My parents had me when they were teenagers and the letters were dated before I was born. It was a mirror to all my relationships at the start: seemingly pure and irrevocably simple. So how did they become the people I knew? 

I held the letters in my hand and decided to call him. Getting his number usually involved calling around until I found someone who had seen him sober. I had his contact information within the hour. 

Before I dialed, I paused to think about the time he was supposed to help my Great Aunt Mary Ann move. She has lived in Brooklyn my whole life and my father’s whole life before that. She was a religious woman and I only saw her once as an adult. When I visited for Thanksgiving she was nervous about me staying the night because I was my father’s child. And everybody knew my father would steal as soon as he looked at you, so I could tell that she wondered the same thing about me. After dinner she told me about how he packed up her tiny apartment to help her move to a different part of New York, and instead drove back to Kentucky with all her furniture.

Why would I call a man who would trick an old woman and steal her furniture?

But I did it anyway. I dialed. It rang. He answered. 

I am still not connected to my father beyond sharing DNA. My mother died ten years ago, so when I made the call, I was a different person. At that point, I had still never purchased a real mattress (#futonlife), I didn’t have a driver’s license, and I wasn’t a mother yet.

And, after the awkward call that was one part scolding and one part obituary, he didn’t show up to the funeral. This man couldn’t even bother to come by the wake or say sorry. I mean, it was definitely on brand, but damn.

There are some very obvious, unclever cliches I can attest to about the daughters of absentee fathers and the sorts of men we date. It is tempting and easy, but I don’t want to do that. While interacting with my son’s father is an exercise in insanity, I still make sure that he calls his father. I’m sure that if his father read this, he would say I don’t do enough. But my own longing for a father drives me to push through my irritation and be a decent co-parent. My son is seven now and I think about when I was seven. My father would randomly show up with gifts I didn’t want or offer to take me shopping. All I really wanted was to know he would be there when I lost a tooth or got an award. That is something that still bothers me and somehow I feel like if I can forgive him, then I can forgive others in my life. Forgiveness is not my strong suit and if I feel betrayed, it’s a wrap for that relationship. I don’t want my son’s love to be as conditional and fearful as mine.

The challenge for me is forgiving and letting go. I talked to my therapist about the intruding sense that I am perpetually behind–like I am not good enough. I crave praise. Sometimes to my detriment. There have been times when I’ve rationalized my father’s absence by blaming his addiction or experience in the military. Similarly, I’ve also done this with romantic partners. In one relationship, my partner was still living with his ex. Eventually he cheated with her. In another relationship, I was pressured to have sex and after I finally gave in I felt terrible. I tried to talk to him about it and he ghosted me for a week. When he finally called, he dismissed my feelings and asked to come over. I actually agreed. I compromised over and over because I didn’t want to be considered a bitter Black woman. I didn’t want to be the irrational or unreasonable Black woman. My friend Minda told me once that I was too reasonable. But the way through this grief is to be unreasonable. 

Which makes more sense? Should I make peace with losing my mother and having no father to pick up the pieces? Or should I try one more time to see what all the hype is about with this Daddy’s Girl situation? Is it pointless? Will it make me feel better or worse? Am I even capable of that version of love where I forgive him, then allow him to be part of my life?

I know one of the men who sells (or at least used to sell) my father dope. It would only take a little effort on my part to get in touch with my father. Whether he is his usual revisionist aficionado or a completely different person ready to apologize, I can only control how I show up in the space. I am definitely not ready to sit down with him today, but I am preparing myself. I’m gearing up to be someone who is capable of forgiveness. My anger and resentment and defensive insults are the armor I built to protect myself from that original shot to the heart when my father rejected me. When I was bullied I realized I had hands and the arsenal expanded. Over time I realized that I could use my words like grenades which kept people from getting close enough to hurt me. But I don’t have to be at war all the time. I am not ready to put away all my armor, but I can at least drop one of my swords.

21May/20
Kenneth Walker Jr.

Protecting Black Women is a Crime – Free Kenneth Walker Jr.

Justice for Breonna Taylor means justice for Kenneth Walker Jr. 

My son’s favorite ancestor is Harriet Tubman. In his school report, he said “she helped get a lot of Black people away from where racist people controlled them to a different place where racist people were not allowed to control them as much. I would protect her if she was alive today because she is important.” I hope I’ve taught my son that Black women are important and worthy of protection. These schools and police departments and jobs don’t value us, but we have Black men who cherish us.

Do Black people get to claim self defense?

When Harriet Tubman had her rifle out ready to shoot any slave catcher that threatened the lives of enslaved Black folks, she would have been acting in self defense if she shot one of them. But apparently, self defense is only reserved for white folks. Remember when Marissa Alexander spent years in prison for protecting herself? As a Black woman who stood her ground, she was treated much more harshly than Trayvon’s Martin’s killer–a racist man who didn’t even get arrested the night he murdered an unarmed child. When white people shoot someone to protect themselves, it’s self defense. When Black folks do the same thing, it’s attempted murder.

We can argue all day about the problems between Black men and women, (as well as our gender nonconforming folks). In this instance, however, it is imperative that we celebrate Black men who stand up for Black women. Kenneth Walker protected a Black woman, but in a world where her killers’ comfort is more valuable than her Black life, Kenneth is seen as a criminal.

A few years ago when actor and philanthropist Kobi Siriboe celebrated his mother and the beauty on Black women on twitter, he was immediately criticized by white followers. Rather than backing down, Kofi doubled down on his love for us. 

Kenneth Walker Jr. went even further to protect a Black woman. 

I couldn’t save Breonna Taylor, but maybe we can save Kenneth Walker.

When I first wrote about Breonna Taylor, I went through it. Like a lot of other people here in Louisville, we are tired of gentrification and empty promises by government officials. We are sick of (and from) the environmental racism and pollution and food deserts. We are out here working one, two, sometimes three jobs to live despite the fact that, in the majority Black West End of this city, Black life expectancy is 12 years shorter than white folks in the more affluent parts of town.

The charges should be dropped immediately and he deserves reparations for all that he endured. #FreeKenny

Look, Kenneth Walker risked his life to defend himself AND Breonna Taylor. Despite the fact that three white men murdered an unarmed Black woman and have served ZERO time in jail, Kenneth Walker Jr. was arrested by the criminals who murdered his girlfriend.

If you haven’t read up on the situation, here is what happened.

  • Plainclothes officers burst into the home of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY with a battering ram
  • Since they did not announce themselves, Kenneth thought they were breaking in and tried to defend himself along with Breonna
  • #BrettMylesandJon responded by firing 20 rounds into the apartment, 8 of which hit and killed Breonna Taylor.
  • They found no drugs and no evidence of a crime
  • They were not wearing body cameras

Thankfully, one of Taji’s heroes Judge Olu Stevens advocated for home incarceration instead of jail time. Of course, the police are big mad.

Since Kenneth’s release home, the case has received national attention. Because of local Black activists like Chanelle Helm of Black Lives Matter Louisville and others, there have been protests and demands. The family and their supporters are asking that all charges get dropped.

After receiving hundreds of calls, emails, and inquiries Commonwealth attorney Thomas Wine recused himself. The case was handed over to Daniel Cameron, the first Black state’s attorney in Kentucky’s history.

Known racist police chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement (not resignation or termination unfortunately) following similar protests and demands. While I am happy that he will no longer be the police chief, I am left with questions. Does he get a severance package? If so, how much of my tax dollars will pay for that? Will Breonna’s murder be anywhere on his record? How much is his pension? Is it worth the effort to hold him accountable after he retires?

The central theme in all this is about our ability (and willingness) to protect Black folks. We have made strides in the original demands. Getting those charges dropped for Kenneth Walker is the next step.

How do we protect these Black men?

Judge Olu Stevens is almost always under attack by the FOP and other #BlueLivesMatter racists. Brother Kenneth’s next court date is June 25th. I pray that we can keep them both safe until then.

“The killing of Breonna Taylor, the filing of criminal charges against her partner Kenneth Walker, and the attacks by the Fraternal Order of Police on Judge Olu Stevens for calling out police misconduct, all reflect a criminal justice system that targets communities of color and the poor,” said Stephen Bartlett of Louisville SURJ. “We cannot sit by and allow this state of affairs to continue.” 

A Message From Black Lives Matter Louisville

#FreeKenny #DropAllCharges #FreeKenny #JusticeForKennethWalker #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor #BlackLivesMatter #SayHerName #BrettMylesandJon are murderers. #BrettMylesandJon killed an unarmed Black woman. #BrettMylesandJon should be in prison. #BreonnaShouldBeAlive. #DropTheCharges against Kennth Walker Jr.

Kenneth Walker Jr.
Breonna

I Couldn’t Save Breonna

How do I even start an article like this? I want to write something that gives us hope and makes me think I can raise my seven-year-old safely, but that doesn’t feel genuine. My mind frantically darts back and forth between advice I’ve gotten over the years about surviving and staying safe as a Black woman.

Be quiet. Go to school. Don’t get pregnant. Get a good job. Keep your hands in plain sight. Don’t talk back. Be polite. Hands up. Try not to upset them.

But has any of that ever kept us safe? Is there something different I can do to be less of a target? Could Breonna have done anything differently? 

A couple of years ago, before I moved back to Louisville, I was living in Oakland. A young Black girl named Nia Wilson was brutally murdered by an apparent white supremacist in broad daylight. She and her sisters were at the MacArthur BART train station when a white man named John Lee Cowell stabbed her and her sister. Of course, they said he was mentally unstable because white men are never guilty in the eyes of the law. Just like the three white officers who gunned down Breonna have been living their best lives over the last two months. 

It doesn’t matter how many accolades and awards and assets we acquire. At the end of the day, the mayor and the governor and the president and your good white friend at work will still take pride in doing the bare minimum. Police will continue to act with impunity because the destruction of Black life is incentivized. I keep seeing people post about the system being broken, but it seems to be functioning effectively. We cannot acknowledge the inception of international chattel slavery, while in the same breath express our disappointment in the system seeming to be broken. White supremacy is operating exactly as it was designed to operate. It is a tempered genocide that kills just enough of us to keep us subservient while not exterminating too many so that the means of free and cheap and easily exploitable labor can keep on pushing.

Am I wrong?

Am I next?

While Mayor Fischer approved a budget that would make him look good and while Attorney General Daniel Camron strategized about how to sue the governor for keeping the state closed for safety during a pandemic, Breonna’s killers were getting paid. 

Breonna Taylor’s job was to save lives. She was an EMT. She was just at home. Most of us are just at home. Police–without cause or a warrant or any concern for a Black life–forced themselves into her home to take her life. Think of how many times you have crossed through the frame of your door, relieved to at least be temporarily shielded from little side comments about your hair or nails. I know I feel safer when I walk in the front door and don’t have to worry about flashing lights. My house is BBQ-Becky and Permit Patty free. Our homes are supposed to offer some reprieve from the constant assault on our minds, bodies, and spirit.

I tense up when I see the police. I feel disgusting inside when they smile at me and try to high five my son. There is an eerily pervasive unspoken truth. They know we can’t do anything in those moments. Our own people may speak out against us in the hopes that it will bring them closer to the safe negro archetype. Without big college words, I just have to say point-blank-period that I am tired of this shit. And I can’t even save myself, so how could I save anyone else?

My expression of joy in the midst of this ongoing war feels like a betrayal to women like Breonna who have been slain for the sake of white supremacy. Free financial coaching classes didn’t do shit to save Breonna. Showing up to work on time with a smile on my face despite my pain ain’t stop bullets from ripping through her body in her own home.

I can’t save Breonna because she is already gone.

And I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault. The police pulled the trigger, but I was focused, with my head down, trying not to be a target. What does any of my success mean if I can’t keep my people safe? I keep seeing her face in front of a Louisville Metro sign. My timeline oscillates between stories of her death and quarantine games. No shade to any of my friends because that was me too. I don’t fault anyone for posting about birthdays and graduation, no I am not mad at my people for finding cause for celebration.

Instead, I am ashamed of the white folks who exist in ignorant bliss, adjacent to our suffering. The ones who continue zoom meetings without any notion of what it means to have to live in fear and still file your paperwork on time. I continue to be disappointed by our government officials who have not put the full force of their dollars behind the efforts to get justice for Breonna’s family. 

She died in her home.

Breonna should be alive.

Now, I am left to wonder what I should do. Hell, what can I do? I will end this with the family’s demands as guidance for how we should respond.

1. Demand the Mayor and City Council address the use of force by LMPD.

2. Fire and revoke the pensions of the officers that murdered Breonna. Arrest, charge, and convict them for this crime.

3. Provide all necessary information to a local, independent civilian community police accountability council #CPAC.

4. Create policies for transparent investigation processes due to law enforcement misconduct. 

5. Drop all charges for Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, who attempted to defend them and their home.

6. Release the 911 call to the public for accountability.

By request of the family and local organizers, please do not add additional demands that have not been confirmed by the family.

  • POST about Breonna, using the hashtags #BreonnaTaylor and #JusticeForBre. Her story has yet to receive the national attention it must to cause local systems to respond. Share her story, images of her smiling face, and tag the responsible parties. On Twitter, use @LMPD, @LouisvilleMayor, and @GovAndyBeshear. On Instagram, use @LMPD.ky, @MayorGregFischer, and @GovAndyBeshear. We can not stop until she receives a response.
  • MAKE CALLS  & SEND EMAILS for Breonna to the investigative agencies, institutions and individuals in charge and make the demands known!
Mayor Greg Fischer(502) 574-2003[email protected]
Commonwealth’s Atty Thomas Wine[email protected]
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad(502) 574-7660
Kentucky Gov. Andy Breshear(502) 564-2611
Atty General Daniel Cameron(502) 696-5300[email protected]

Featured Image Artwork by shirien.